U.S. President Barack Obama asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to deal cautiously with Russia at their summit in Washington in April, Japanese government sources said Saturday.
Fully aware of Japan’s hope to realize Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tokyo, Obama apparently wanted to make sure that Japan does not concede easily over the Ukraine crisis, according to the sources.
In the summit, Obama stressed the importance of a careful approach toward Russia. The Group of Seven major economies have moved in step with one another on the issue and should continue to do so, Obama told Abe.
Japan will make appropriate responses for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the Ukraine problem, including overtures to Russia, while placing importance on G-7 cooperation, Abe replied.
In a show of his respect for G-7 unity, Abe skipped a ceremony held on May 9 to mark the 70th anniversary of the former Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.
In his policy speech before the Diet in February, Abe expressed his hope to realize Putin’s visit to Japan “at an appropriate time this year” to create a breakthrough in stalled talks over four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido at the center of the two countries’ territorial dispute.
“There is no change” in this policy, a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Saturday.
In the G-7 camp, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Russia earlier this month, signaling increasing momentum for resuming talks with Moscow.
In view of the development, Japan is accelerating efforts to realize a visit to Russia by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida as part of preparations for Putin’s trip to Japan, sources said.